Authors: Meredith Thomsen and Brian Kraatz
Overview: In this lesson, students mount their first pressed plant specimens, cover some basic plant morphology, and get a homework assignment to practice their plant collecting and observational skills at home.
Collecting and preserving organisms is part of the observing that natural scientists do. Information collected with the organism is just as important as sample itself.
(Students also start learning skills of pressing and mounting plants.)
Student plant presses (with pressed plant inside from last week)
5”x8” note cards hole-punched to fit field notebooks
clear contact paper cut to fit cards
pre-printed and cut out labels for mounted plants
Advance preparation:Hole-punching note cards, cutting up contact paper, printing and cutting out labels (not trivial).
Time: 45 minutes
Grouping: Whole class, then smaller groups for mounting, then whole class again.
Hand out presses, field notebooks, 2 pieces of contact paper, 2 labels, and 2 note cards/student.
Go over basic concepts from last week: scientists who study the natural world need to know how to collect and preserve organisms. It’s especially important to keep track of when and where they were found; just a big waste of time (and life!) otherwise.
Have them look up their field notes from last week’s collection and use that information to fill in a label (see example below). Not worrying about identifying stuff right now, or about collection number, but tell them we’ll get there.
If possible, break students into smaller groups with one teacher/GSF/UGSF leading each group… they don’t
really need to be at separate tables, but smaller groups might help focus attention. Students can then open their
presses and take out the pressed plant from last week. Have them put a note card on their desk with holes at the top
(see picture below). Ask students to arrange their pressed plant on the card where they want it, leaving room in lower
right-hand corner for label. Then ask students to put piece of contact paper with paper side up on desk, peel off paper
and put it to the right of the note card, in same orientation (can get paper off by tearing it a tiny bit; won’t rip
plastic part). Have them flip the label over so it’s stuck on lower left hand corner of contact paper (so it’s in
lower right-hand corner of finished mount). Then ask them to carefully place the contact paper (sticky side down this
time) onto the plant on the note card (will just have to puncture contact paper with binders when they put mount
in their notebooks). Ask them to fold edges of contact paper over to back of card.
Let students marvel at the beauty of their mounted plant for a moment!
Tell students they’ll get to bring their notebooks and presses home, and then give them their homework assignment (have them write in field notebook). Stress that this is just exactly what they did in class the last two weeks:
Tonight or tomorrow: choose a field site, make notebook entry, and collect a plants. Include observations of the plants you collect. (Talk about field sites … somewhere safe, easy to get to, since they might need to collect there again. A yard, a park, a neighbor’s garden (with permission!), whatever.)
One or two nights before next class meeting: Mount your dried plant just like we did today, including label, on the cards provided.
Mention that their grade will be based on: complete field notebook entry, thoughtful observations, complete label, and how well they mounted their plants (different parts represented, backs of leaves, etc.). And that they’re free to decorate their notebooks and presses while they’ve got them at home …
Wrap up: Have now learned the skills you need to collect and preserve plants, including the information you need to collect about when and where you found them. You will make a personal plant collection this year that you can use to remember what you’ve seen and will help you recognize the plants in the future.
Optional: segue into plant morphology lesson (see handout from Anna Larsen). Have them examine their mounted specimen and make notes in field notebook about what plant parts they’ve collected, type of leaf, venation, etc.
Have students pack their notebooks and presses in their backpacks to bring home.
Collected by: _________________________________________
Number: ___________________ Date: ____________________
(Flip label onto contact paper before putting contact paper onto specimen.)